HOUSTON (AP) — The investigation of a Houston Police Department narcotics unit following a deadly 2019 drug raid has resulted in charges being filed against six former officers, who are accused of routinely using false information to get search warrants and of lying on police reports, prosecutors announced on Wednesday.
The work of the narcotics unit has been under scrutiny following the January 2019 drug raid in which Dennis Tuttle, 59, and his wife, Rhogena Nicholas, 58, were killed.
Two former members of the unit — Gerald Goines and Steven Bryant — had previously been charged in state and federal court in the case, including two counts of felony murder filed in state court against Goines.
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced Wednesday that 15 new felony charges have been filed against Goines and Bryant, as well as four other ex-officers, three who were supervisors. The other ex-officers are Sgt. Clemente Reyna; Sgt. Thomas Wood; Lt. Robert Gonzales; and Officer Hodgie Armstrong.
The supervisors are accused of signing records saying they saw officers pay confidential informants for buying drugs when they did not, Ogg said. The officers are also accused of falsifying government documents to steal money meant for drug buys and falsifying time sheets.
Ogg said the crimes were part of a pattern that eventually resulted in the deadly raid.
“Some will say that this scheme is just mismanagement. It is not. It is long running evidence of graft and corruption than can literally rot an institution from the inside out,” Ogg said.
Nicole DeBorde, Goines’ attorney, said she had not yet seen documentation regarding the new charges but accused Ogg of using the case to get good publicity “after a bad week of press.”
“She is also using this as an opportunity to further damage Mr. Goines’s ability to get a fair trial,” DeBorde said.
An attorney for Bryant did not immediately return an email seeking comment. Court records did not list attorneys for the other ex-officers.
In a statement, the Houston Police Officers’ Union called Reyna, Wood Gonzales and Armstrong “victims” of a “political ploy” by a “rogue DA.”
Prosecutors had previously accused Goines, 55, of lying to obtain the warrant to search the home of Tuttle and his wife by claiming that a confidential informant had bought heroin there. Goines later said there was no informant and that he had bought the drugs himself, they allege. Five officers, including Goines, were injured in the raid.
Since the raid, prosecutors have been reviewing thousands of cases handled by the narcotics unit.
One of the cases being reviewed is one involving George Floyd, who pleaded guilty in 2004 and served time in state jail after being arrested on a minor drug charge by Goines. Floyd’s death in May while being arrested by a Minneapolis police officer sparked national protests over racism and police violence.
More than 160 drug convictions tied to Goines have been dismissed by prosecutors. Prosecutors expect more cases will be dismissed.
Earlier Wednesday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals declared that one of the individuals whose case was dismissed earlier this year — Otis Mallet — was innocent.
“Police misconduct is at the heart of this case,” the appeals court said in a concurring opinion in Mallet’s case.
All of the individuals in the more than 160 cases that have been dismissed are minorities and the majority are African American, prosecutors have said.
Ogg said the actions of the six ex-officers “had a profoundly negative impact and an unknown cost on the minority communities of Houston who have long been over-represented targets in drug enforcement.”
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